This is the second part of the Recruiters’ Secrets Revealed series; you can read about the recruiters and their tips in Part 1. In this article, we’ll cover more tips on applicant tracking systems, cover letters, resumes, LinkedIn, social networks, the best way to connect with companies and interview preparation and follow-up.

Applicant Tracking Systems

There is a lot of confusion about what is the acceptable way to send your resume. As each recruiter began to describe the system that they use, it became clear that there is no standard.

Recruiters on the panel used simple systems such as an excel spreadsheet to complex systems that housed over a quarter million people.

To search their databases, recruiters use algorithms and rarely look at resumes with human eyes. They admit there are too many resumes. However, one recruiter on the panel admits to settling in and reading each resume with a steaming cup of coffee.

So what’s the magic in being found by an algorithm? The secret is key words. If your resume has key words that match the criteria the recruiter searches on…viola your resume pops up.

Applicant tracking systems get a bad rap with job hunters because when you send your resume you believe it was deposited into the dark abyss. One recruiter was quick to point out that applicant systems are beneficial because your resume is always searchable and companies are more apt to keep your resume past the standard six months.

Include Cover Letters

The recruiters’ consensus was the majority of job applicants do not include a cover letter with their resume and that’s a missed opportunity to make a positive impression. While it takes time to customize cover letters for each position, it’s a great opportunity to show your personality and explain why you should be hired even if your qualifications are not an exact match. Demonstrate what you to offer without overusing the word “I”.

Do not expect a recruiter to figure out why you should be hired, make it easy and point it out. One recruiter likes the “T” format – use two columns. In the first column highlight their “Requirements” and in the second column identify your “Qualifications”.

What happens to your cover letter when you submit it online to an applicant tracking system? Is it lost or is it attached to your resume? Does the hiring manager see it? Well, it depends on the system and how it is set up.

Some positions specifically ask for a cover letter. Don’t skip this step or any other step in the process that a recruiter or company outlines. You may not be included in the short list because you failed to follow instructions. Think that is harsh?  Think again, companies want employees who pay attention to the details and follow instructions.

Resume Formatting

Some applicant tracking systems accept Word documents only, some accept PDFs, and some accept both. The general consensus is that Word documents are preferred. The type of applicant system that a recruiter uses depends on how many people they have to track.

Using graphics in your resume sometimes causes problems with applicant tracking systems. Pictures in the middle of your resume screws up the formatting, however, lines seem to be OK.

Typically, you’ll find more forgiveness when recruiting for technical positions.

Recommendation – have several versions of your resume available so that if a recruiter calls to say your resume was not accepted, you can quickly send it a second time. Seize the opportunity to discuss your interest in the position while you have the recruiter on the phone.

Use LinkedIn

Every recruiter on the panel uses LinkedIn to find qualified candidates. A LinkedIn Recruiter’s package gives them advanced search capabilities on the entire database – not just people they are linked with. Recruiters find qualified candidates for every position by searching on key words.

A well-written LinkedIn profile is the secret to being found by a recruiter for your dream job. The key words you use in your profile represent the skills and capabilities you have to offer a future employer. When your key words match the recruiter’s search criteria (their key words), you get their attention! That’s the first step to being asked in for an interview.

One of the best ways to see if your LinkedIn profile is working for you is to do a search on the types of jobs you would love to have. Look at the key words that are sprinkled throughout the job description and compare that with your LinkedIn profile. Do they match up? If not, you have some homework to do.

If you are not sure what a good LinkedIn profile looks like, search for people who have the same job title as you do. There will be some good profile out there and others that don’t make a very good impression. Once you look at several dozen LinkedIn profiles, you may find that hidden gem – the profile where you say “WOW”. Study it, figure out what they did, how they said it and emulate it. Don’t copy it – make your LinkedIn profile your own.

Don’t forget to show your experience in different verticals – that might mean industries, professional disciplines or geographical preferences. Recruiters search on those fields to narrow down their results.

What should you do if you want to link in with someone who met you briefly at an event? Contact them and refer to the event or meeting and ask to connect or suggest meeting them to have a personal conversation.

LinkedIn Endorsements or Recommendations

Do recruiters pay attention to one of LinkedIn’s newer features – Endorsements? Overwhelming, the panel said “NO”. However, your recommendations play an important factor in consideration. When evaluating how relevant your recommendation is, they pay attention to who the recommenders were and the context of the recommendation.

Contacting Recruiters on LinkedIn

Is it OK to reach out to a recruiter you don’t know on LinkedIn? Absolutely! Don’t be bashful, especially if that recruiter specializes in your field or area of expertise.

Social Networks

Do recruiters use the social networks during background checks? What you post on LinkedIn and Twitter – yes. Expect the recruiter to check Google. One candidate who was about to receive an offer from a company was googled by the company and they found out that the person was involved in child pornography. That job offer was dead. Know what the internet says about you. If you don’t like it, clean it up.

Everyone on the panel said they do not check your Facebook account. There are potential legal entanglements. However, one recruiter said an employee shared information about a prospective candidate because they were friends on Facebook and the company reconsidered making an offer. Remember cyberspace counts and it stays out there a long time.

How to Connect with Companies

Every recruiter agreed that cultivating personal connections inside a company is the best way to conduct a job search. Use informational meetings to learn whether your targeted companies are a good fit. Many of the people who are hired are from employee recommendations. Cultivate your network to gain access into companies.

Interview Preparation and Follow Through

It’s time for your interview – remember that first impressions count! Respond with a firm handshake and direct eye contact as you introduce yourself.

Express your interests clearly – the type of organization, culture, management style and job that is important to you. Let the recruiter or manager know how your skills and abilities will help the company meet specific challenges. Think about some killer questions to ask them that proves you did your homework.

What happens to letters of recommendations you bring to an interview? If the recruiter or hiring manager is interested, they will contact the recommenders to authenticate the information and ask follow-up questions.

Finally, remember to send a Thank You Note to each person you interview with. The recruiter and hiring manager wants to know that the time you spent together was meaningful. It’s your opportunity to make a lasting impression. Every recruiter smiled when they talked about the thank you notes they had received.